Review: Anker High Precision Programmable Laser Gaming Mouse with 8000 DPI

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First off, I’m not a gamer. However I have Anker products and this is a brand I trust, so getting this mouse as a replacement to my ‘dumb’ mouse was really an easy decision and I would recommend this to anyone.

While slightly larger than my old mouse it fits perfectly into the palm of my hand. The grip point by the thumb is a nice addition to ensure your thumb sits nicely in the right spot with the customisable buttons neatly resting above (the middle button above the thumb also has some ridges to help easily identify which button is which without looking). The mouse glides well over any surface and doesn’t seem to collect grime on the pads as easily as my old mouse. As mentioned in TdHD’s review the Anker logo light is completely customisable to be off or have different breathing speeds and colours. The other lights can only change colour (scroll wheel & DPI lights). While the mouse to me was a little light, the addition of a few supplied weights helped tailor this mouse to be just right for me which is a welcome option. Overall a well built, well designed quality mouse which has already raised a few glances and comments in my office.

As mentioned, I am not a PC gamer… But, I do use a PC a lot for Spreadsheets, VBA, all sorts of other stuff. Sometimes I demonstrate what I am doing and it’s not easy to have the keyboard at hand. By changing the defaults of some of the button clicks I now have direct access to all of my needed tasks directly by my hand, i.e. highlight the text, click a button on the mouse – text is copied. Click a cell somewhere else, click another button – pasted. Fantastic! While I have no real use for the macro record button (hence why I changed the behaviour) I can see that this would be an excellent option for gamers to easily record a melee attack or any other multi-key stroke behaviour which could give an upper-hand in a game.

Installation was a simple plug and play, then off to the ianker website to download the latest drivers in order to customise the mouse. Once installed it’s very intuitive to navigate and select what you want to change.

Ideal users – Obviously gamers. But I will add that anyone who uses keyboard shortcuts, precision software (i.e. photoshop for fine editing thanks to the higher DPI) or just anyone who wants to stand out a little more with a funky mouse sat on their desk will benefit from the features on offer with this mouse. Also of note is that you can have 2 different profiles, so whilst it’s not a quick fix to change the weight of the mouse it’s simple to setup a profile for 2 people who use a computer and each have your own personal settings configured. Another option would be to say have one profile setup for Windows general (copy, paste, windows button etc.) and another profile for Photoshop with buttons set for shortcuts to certain tasks (or for gamers, a Windows profile, and a WoW etc. profile).

Overall for the price this is on offer for I really don’t think you could get much better… Even if you don’t need the higher DPI rate (which other mice in this class are much more expensive), it’s a useful ability to have. Especially with the toggle button to quickly go between 4 customisable made variables. I’ve used the word customisable a lot in this review, and this mouse is exactly that. With the ability to change the weight, lighting, button press functions, DPI, scroll speed/acceleration it really means you can do what you want,when you want. Kudos to Anker for the quality of the product in a price range that needs no second-thought on purchasing. Seriously, if you are reading this then you must be interested in the product (or looking for a mouse of sorts). You won’t find anything better in it’s class and I would suggest the ‘Buy now’ or ‘Add to basket’ button should be the next one you click.

This Anker Mouse is currently available for £25.99 on Amazon.co.uk

Review: Anker® Uspeed USB 3.0 to HDMI / DVI Adapter

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OK, so I have an older laptop (must be about 6 years old now). As such I do not have HDMI out or DVI Out, if I want to connect to the TV I have to use VGA…. But my TV doesn’t support an audio-in as well as VGA. Problem!

So while I don’t need to connect the Laptop to the the TV regularly, Media streaming is accomplished through a NAS and X-Box360 combo. It is still handy to be able to connect the laptop for watching videos with encoders that cannot be played through the X-Box directly such as mkv.

All you need to do is visit the DisplayLink website to download the latest drivers (I decided to just do this direct and not use the pre-packed driver disc to ensure I was running the latest from the start). Once done, plug the device in and let the drivers install, then I plugged it into the TV a violla. Perfect picture and sound on my TV either as an extension to my homescreen or as a duplicate.

I could not be happier, it was so easy to do and the adapter in itself is not huge to become an annoyance if taking it away with you. The added DVI adapter would come in use for those with HDMI ports already taken up on your TV and do not want to unplug, or want to permanently set your PC to the TV as you can just use DVI port instead of HDMI for not much sacrifice in quality.

The only negative I could have for this (and this is more a personal issue) is the length of the USB cable could be a little longer for me to save pulling the pre-existing HDMI cable a bit more out from the cable tidy. But this is really my own issue, so is not impacted on my score for the product.

Nice product, well thought-out and excellent quality as always. Thanks Anker!

Review: Telldus Tellstick NET

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I got this product and have to say that it’s great for a low-cost Home Automation setup. The availability of receiver products is quite wide, although not many are offered through the Amazon website. There are lots of websites which offer receivers such as plugs, light switches/dimmers, temperature sensors, door locks etc.

The benefit of the net is it works with X10, HomeEasy, Nexa and lots of other products using the 433Mhz frequency. All of which can be controlled from anywhere in the world using the Telldus.Live website or Smartphone apps which are built using the API. iPhone users have an official app available, while for Android I recommend the third party app: RemoteStick. You can also easily schedule devices to turn on/off so for instance you can set your Kettle/Coffee machine up the night before and time it to come on before you wake. Or Save power by plugging things like TV’s into a switch so that at night it’s completely shut off instead of in standby.

As for the device; The main unit is small and plugs into your router via an ethernet cable (supplied). Power to the unit is supplied through USB either directly from a socket, or if your router has a USB you can power it from this also (again, relevant cables/plugs provided). My BT HomeHub3 has a USB and this is used to power the transmitter directly.

Once plugged in, you need to go to the Telldus.Live website to authorise the device (all communication goes through the Telldus web servers, this is one of the only downsides to the Tellstick-NET as if you lose Internet connectivity in your home or the servers go down then you cannot control any receiver units until communication is restored). I believe this is something the developers are looking at to see if they can achieve local transmission.

Once done you are good to start adding receiver devices to your home. I initially had 3 plug sockets from Nexa and an Wireless Temperature Sensor THN132N to setup. The Temp sensor just needed batteries and to be placed, the Tellstick picked this up straight away and started receiving readings.

The Nexa plugs I placed 1 on our Kettle plug, 1 on the multi-adapter for the TV/Entertainment setup and the last in the bedroom for things like hair straighteners etc to be plugged into (reason for this is so that if my wife leaves the house and is unsure if she unplugged them, we can just use an app on our phones to remotely turn the switch off – Or if you have Android, you can use a combination of the apps Tasker, AutoRemote & RemoteStick to automatically turn off any plugs when everyone is out the house. Which is what I have done).

The Nexa units again were easy to add to the Tellstick Live account. And all in all setup took about half an hour. I have since added a HomeEasy light dimmer to our bedroom so that I can a.) Turn off the lights in the bedroom without getting out of bed. And, b.) In the morning I have the lights start to dim up in stages starting from about half an hour before my phone alarm is due to go off. Mimicking sunrise to try and make waking up in the morning easier. This is quite an advanced scheme, again using Android apps Tasker, RemoteStick and AutoAlarm. Another setup I had at Christmas time was to turn the Christmas Tree lights on when we were at home, and as soon as we left (i.e. both mine and my wifes phones disconnected from the Wi-Fi) or my tasker night profile became active the lights would turn off.

Summary:
Some of the setups I have are a bit more advanced. However if you are looking to start low-cost Home Automation it is easy to install the tellstick and some plug switches so that you can easily control devices from your phone or while out of the home using smartphone apps or the Telldus.Live website. I would highly recommend anyone consider this as a good option for starting in Home Automation as there are a good range of compatible devices (you can see what on the Telldus website) and these devices are relatively cheap. A set of 3 Nexa plugs come in at around £15.

I love this and am looking at ways of further extending what I can do with it including Heating Control, motion sensors, door opening sensors etc.

Review: HTC In-Car Smartphone Cradle for HTC One

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Packaging & Contents:
Great packaging and just the right size for the product itself. In the box you get the Car Holder with suction mount, a separate disc with sticky pad so you can stick this to your dash/interior and can then use the suction mount against this if window mount is not feasible. A Car charger (for cigarette lighter) and USB cable which is specifically designed with clips so the to secure it to the mount. Lastly, a user guide with multi-language instructions detailing how to fit the carkit and operation.

Products & Fitting:
The main bulk of the car kit is a great quality plastic and looks very good. I like the fact that the suction section is twist-to-stick as opposed to most previous mounts I’ve had which have a tough clip to secure the suction which looks unsightly. This gives the mount a clean look with no unobtrusive parts. The overall size is 9.5cm from base of the suction section to the outside edge of the phone cradle. The phone holder is 7cm in width and 10cm in length, so when adding the phone in you’ll need a space of about 12/13cm lengthwise.

There are 2 ball joints with a connector rod about 2/3cm long. These parts are made from polished silver to give that expensive feel to it. One ball joint is in the suction section and the other on the rear of the phone cradle. This is to enable you to easily swivel the direction of the phone to pretty much any angle you wish… Out of all car kits I’ve had this is a great feature and much better than any previous clip/unclip angle finders which are far more limited than this ball joint mechanism.

The joints are fairly stiff to manoeuvre, but easy enough that it won’t cause any problems angling the phone to how you want it. This means that there should be no worries about the angle moving as you drive or hit bumps. In my opinion this is the perfect balance between stiffness & maneuverability.

The Cigarette adapter isn’t the smallest or cleanest I’ve seen with some protrusion out of the lighter unit by about 3cm, adding the extra from the USB cable end you have to allow for at least 6cm before you get to the flexible cable. It may have also been nice to have a dual USB output, but the single output is fine for my needs and the plastic top has a matt finish to it, while the main body is a shiny plastic. Other than that it is a standard USB sized output, so could be easily used for charging any other USB device.

The supplied cable is around 180cm in length so you should have no problems reaching from the cigarette lighter to wherever you decide to place the mount. Excess cable is suggested to wrap around the silver arm, and there is a space in the suction removal pull tab to hook the cable into to keep it neat and tidy. One end is the standard larger USB and the other end comprises of the smaller micro-USB plug protruding from a small clip which allows this to be securely fitted to the phone cradle. As the plug is protruding, it is entirely feasible to use this for any device which uses the micro-USB connector as a charge port and does not limit you to only having this for the specific use intended.

I have fitted mine to the car using the supplied place pad. Suction is really strong and you can move the angle with ease without any risk of it coming loose. One point to note is that if you turn the phone holder clockwise it can detach from the rest of the unit. I’m not sure of the reason for this, maybe so it can be used as a temporary phone case. However, I wouldn’t suggest this be used as it’s not as sturdy as official phone cases. I would like to see this section be offered as an additional accessory in case of breaking as it is just plastic.

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Usage with Phone:
The phone slides snugly into the cradle, sometimes I’ve had to tweak the charging pin slightly to get it to connect. But it’s not too much of an issue, and isn’t too hard to accomplish. Once the phone is in situ it’s easy to manipulate the phone to the right angle if you’ve knocked it out while inserting the phone. Bluetooth is automatically started, a connection to the handsfree made and the Car Home application loads (unless told not to from within the Car Home app settings).

Options available from the Car Home Application Settings screen;
‘Auto launch’ – Start app when my phone connects to my car dock
‘Auto play’ – Resume Music or Radio after launching app (this will load your last played track or radio station)
‘Auto connect’ – Auto connect to my Bluetooth devices (select which device you want the app to connect to by default)
‘Voice call accessory’ – This allows you to switch in app to a different Bluetooth Device
‘Audio-out accessory’ – Same as above, but for Audio out instead of call out
‘Beats Audio’ – Select this to enable Beats Audio to be applied to your streamed music
‘Read out notification’ – Announce incoming calls and new messages and allow voice command to react to them
‘Notification preview’ – Announce caller ID and sender information for new calls and sender for new messages
‘Show disclaimer’ – Show disclaimer every time I use this app

By default the main screen shows you large image of clock and weather – These are non-interactive so you cannot adjust any clock settings. There is a large button displayed to show you the ‘last played/playing now’ track and several buttons for sending you straight to Navigation, Dialer, Music, Speak, People, Settings, Exit and a ‘+’ button to allow you to add a shortcut to any app you have in your drawer. I would have like the option to add widgets to the Car Home screen as you have multiple screens which you can easily swipe to.

Other than that the buttons are clear and easy to access at a quick glance. It seems that HTC have really tried to provide several levels with this app and not just let the buttons take you to the relevant inbuilt application. i.e. when you press “Dialer” you get a dialer with larger buttons to make it easier while driving. Pressing Navigation takes you to a screen with multiple (large) buttons to either go straight to Google maps, Previous Destinations, Appointment locations, Gas stations, Restaurants etc. It even has the option to go by photo, using the location info from the photo’s in your gallery (if available).

Speak is interesting. It’s quite clever in so much that when you press this button it simulates a call to itself so that you actually speak and hear with your handsfree for the voice commands rather than using the phone’s inbuilt mic & speaker. One issue I’ve encountered is if the voice command fails sometimes the call remains active and you have to manually end it.

Other than the few little issues the app is really good. Screen stays on while docked so you don’t have to keep pressing the unlock button on the phone. The app works like a launcher so you cannot press the home button to exit it which is a little annoying if you want to access any other apps while the phone is docked, but I can see the reason for this.

Handily when undocking the phone Bluetooth is disabled, so be careful if you’re in a call on your handsfree and want to continue the conversation while in the car after stopping.

Overall Opinion:
This is a great quality accessory, build is exceptional which is what would be expected for an OEM product. Slightly dearer in cost than some multi-purpose carkits, but you get what you pay for with this. But if you’re getting a One and want to extend that luxury feel to the car environment you certainly would not go wrong purchasing this product. Looks-wise it stands out from the crowd and should have the envy of everyone who sees it.

Only negative is really to do with the charging adapter. I would have liked this to sit as flush as possible in the cigarette lighter unit as is possible with some other adapters. To this end I may purchase a smaller adapter to make things as neat as possible.

Review: HTC Double Dip Flip Case for HTC One

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The case in the most part on the outside is made from a leather like material to give it an expensive feel and look, there is the “htc” name pressed into the front flip. This wraps around the main body of the phone to the back. The wrap-around although material feel to touch, is surprisingly quite solid with some pliability but not enough to feel like it would not support the phone during an impact. A good balance in my opinion.

The top and bottom parts (as well as camera lens/flash cutouts) are made of polycarbonate to ensure if dropped this maximises the protection offered, these edges wrap around the corners of the phone holding it in place as well as giving protection if dropped onto the side. There are extra cutouts for the speakers to allow uninterrupted BoomSound, and cutouts for the USB port, mic and power button. The right-hand side of the phone is left open to the elements, but if it were dropped on this side, the polycarbonate edges should minimise impact with the surface.

Inside is a red micro-fibre cloth material which is a soft furry feel, but nice and will help prevent scratches and also could be used to wipe the screen if needed.

The phone is held quite tightly in between the polycarbonate edges and (although I haven’t tried) I would feel pretty certain that this should hold it in the case during a drop.

Overall usage, is good. It stands the phone well and it’s easy to manipulate the angle. However, in doing so it does leave some ‘stretch marks’ in the folds which is understandable for the material. As mentioned by others, if you leave the phone in the standing position for too long it does leave the front flip not fully closing as the joints have obviously settled to the open position. But after a while it does close flush to the phone screen again as there is a little weight to the front cover.

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My only real concern is that the front flip is not locked into position, so if the phone lands face down and the flip opened during the fall you could damage the screen, so protection for this area is lacking and I would recommend buying the HTC One Screen Protector to give that additional protection.

Overall:

Well designed, feels like a quality product that offers ample protection for the occasional bumps that might happen. Ideal for the likes of office workers who want their phone to be stood up, or while at home to be used as a stand for media playing etc. If however you are clumsy or work in a manual industry that means your phone will be prone to drops, bumps in the pocket etc then I’m not sure this will offer a long-term solution for continuous protection. You’d be better off getting the HTC One Double Dip Hard Shell case.

Review: Pioneer XW-SMA 3K Portable Wireless Speaker

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The XW-SMA3 K has a great range of connectivity options, the only thing lacking is Bluetooth but this is not really required as the bandwidth and range given with Wi-Fi is far superior.

The product:
The box contains the speaker, ir remote, manuals and power cable for both UK & 2-prong US power sockets.

The main unit itself is (W x H x D)320x180x145mm… roughly a shoebox size, and looks pretty nice in a slightly gloss finish. On the front left are indicators showing power on, connection mode (Airplay, WiFi, USB, Aux etc. Designated by different colour lights), indicator to show connection status to the WiFi and an indicator showing the charge status of the battery. On the front right you have touch sensitive buttons for power, source and volume controls. At the rear is a WiFi antenna and inputs for Ethernet connection to a LAN, Apple input (iPod, iPad, iPhone) with charge facility, 3.5 Aux in & Power in. These rear inputs are covered by a rubber plug each side for water-resistant use outdoors or in the bathroom.

The remote has options to power on the unit, source input, volume controls and playback control if using an apple source.

Setup:
Setup is a little tricky, but the strangely large broadsheet style manual has good infographic on how to setup the speaker for your particular needs. Easiest way I found to connect into my home LAN was to boot the device into hotspot mode, connect from my phone and update the firmware. Once you’ve done this you can then apply your home network settings as a firmware update will wipe these, so best updating the firmware first.

Also note that you’ll need to update the firmware first before you can use the phone “Pioneer Connect” app otherwise it won’t be found.

Once done you can easily find the device on your home network to stream via airplay, HTC Connect (If you have a new HTC One series phone) or dlna (UPnP). If you install the Pioneer app on your phone you can also set the speaker to play from vTuner Internet radio.

Sound:
The speaker uses dual 77mm woofers and a tiny 26mm tweeter which means you get loads of low end but not much emphasis on higher frequencies. This is more than adequate for the casual listener but acoustic or classical tracks may feel a little cold, while Dance or big beat tracks will boom away with bass. The volume levels for indoors are great, although the steps between levels seems a little off. It seems fairly quiet until you press the vol up button once more, and then you suddenly get an injection of sound. For an outdoors party this is certainly a better option than cranking up your Hi-Fi indoors, and there is more than adequate volume to give the party a bit of life. But don’t expect the same as you would get from bringing a Hi-Fi outside as it only packs 2 10W Amplifiers.

Battery:
What really makes this exciting is the fact that the inbuilt battery means you can take this outdoors (or carry it around) without the need to plug in. I’ve managed to comfortably get five hours at a medium volume and around 2.5/3 at max. You can increase this of you opt for a wired connection rather than streaming wirelessly.

Overall Opinion:

For portability and the connectivity options this is certainly a worthwhile purchase. There are better wireless speakers for sound but these are either more expensive or lack the extra benefits of the battery.

If you are in the market for a pretty decent wireless speaker which has a lot of flexibility in connection types and portability then you can’t go wrong with this one. It lacks some excitement with the higher frequencies, but for an average use not worrying too much about the fine sound qualities it really is a great option.

Review: Anker Astro E4 13000mAh External Battery Charger Power Bank

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Well what can I say, this is truly a monster. If you are going away on a trip for a few days (or are packing a bag for a day trip) this is an essential device to take.

In the box you get the battery bank, cable and attachments for a micro USB, Mini USB and also for an iPod. The battery is suitably heavy and this should be expected for something of its capacity. Don’t buy this expecting something you can carry in a pocket to give you a bit of a boost if you may need it. It’s too big for just carrying around ‘in case’. This is for when you KNOW you’ll need to recharge your device(s)!

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I won’t go into too much detail as it’s a pretty standard battery bank. No bells and whistles, but what I will say is this will charge a device many times over and the ability to charge 2 at once is a great feature. I often travel with work to other countries, and this will be a god-send for when I’m using my phone to watch video’s or listen to music while flying and need to recharge. I will now easily be able to carry this in my flight bag and recharge my HTC One at least 4 to 5 times over!

This is a great quality product from a great company. I can’t praise Anker highly enough for all products I have from them, the build is exceptional and the practicality offered is unsurpassable.

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If like me you travel lots then this is a must have to keep in your travel bag…. just note that it will take several hours to re-charge. From a full discharge it will take 8/9 hours to fully recharge if using an AC adapter, this will obviously be longer if charging via a USB port on a computer!

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Review: Anker High-Precision Wireless Mouse

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This mouse is currently on sale for £10 on Amazon.co.uk… Yep, £10 for a wireless mouse which has multiple dpi switch, 6 buttons, 10 metre range and an 18 month battery life (obviously the battery life will depend on the quality of battery you install and how much you use it).

The mouse is just the right size (in fact it’s a normal mouse size, i hate those tiny portable mice). When you open the box all you need to do is put an AA battery in the mouse (battery not included) and plug the USB into a port on your computer. Drivers are installed automatically and in a matter of half a minute you’re good to start using it.

The USB is small enough that it fits into a handy receptacle in the base of the mouse, the only concern I have with this is it doesn’t quite seem snug enough that I’ll not worry about it coming loose and losing it. I would have liked this to be a bit of a tighter fit or to have some form of lock to keep it in place when not in use. This is especially prevalent for me as I already have a wired Anker mouse at my desk: Anker® High Precision Programmable Laser Gaming Mouse with 8000 DPI, 9 Programmable Button, Weight Tuning Cartridge, Omron Micro Switches, so this wireless mouse is going to be kept in my laptop bag ready to be used when on the road.

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Other than that it feels great in the hand and to use. It glides effortlessly over most surfaces and the 10 metre range is a good estimate.

If you are after a wireless mouse and you don’t want to spend too much then this really is a great bargain. Seriously, grab it quick before Anker notice and bump the price up 🙂

Review: Anker® Uspeed USB 3.0 7-Port Hub + 2 Charging Ports

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With all the gadgets and peripherals for our computers we’re running out of USB Ports with which to add new devices to. Fed up of having to unplug something in order to connect your Blackberry, USB Flash drives etc? I know I was. So this is a godsend as my laptop Docking station only has 3 available USB ports for which to connects to. Mouse & keyboard take 2. That leaves just one for my phone , USB memory or anything else to connect. This is especially a pain when trying to charge both my work Blackberry and my personal phone.

Now I have an additional 6 USB Ports with which I can connect (one of the PC ports is obviously taken up by the hub). On top of this, there are also 2 separate ports which are used only for charging a device. So if I want my phone to charge faster and do not need it to be connected to the PC in USB Host mode, I can connect it to one of these and it just accepts a charge which has more power output than running through a standard USB port.

On to the unit itself. The station is slim at just 1.5cm height and is well designed and built. You can see from the product pictures it is a sleek black box and it just oozes class. The shiny top is somewhat distracting as it’s a little reflective, but in a way I like it as it does make it look a little more expensive than a standard matte finish would give. On the top is also an led indicator for each port to show when something is connected and live. These indicators are recessed within the unit itself, so when not connected you just see a pure black slab. Nice! Be warned, the mirrored finish does mean it is prone to fingerprints and does show dust quite easily.

My main gripe with this hub is that all the PC USB ports are on the front of the unit. I would have preferred a split of maybe 4 ports on the rear, and 3 on the front. It can look a little untidy if you plug cables into the ports as it has to come out and then hook back leaving the front not as clean as I would have liked. Having 4 of them on the rear would have been a tidier option, with 3 ports at the front for non-cable based USB devices such as dongles, flash drives etc.

On the right hand side of the unit you have 2 charge ports. One for 2.1A output and a second for 1.5A, this means that it should be capable of charging any USB chargeable devices currently on the market. Even able to charge 2 at once if required!

I will also point out that this is backward compatible with all your standard 2.0 USB devices so there will be no issues if you need to use either. I am actually using this at work, and my current system doesn’t have a 3.0 port so cannot comment on performance. However, from other reviews I’ve read of this the performance given transferring a file is just as fast as directly into the PC. So I have no worries about when I upgrade that I will lose out on some performance by using this.

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I have had in the past several usb hubs, this is by far the best looking and best built. Previous hubs I’ve had tend to be unsightly and look quite plasticy and I’ve tried to hide them away. This one however is taking pride of place on my desk! The ports look like they will withstand the time of plugging in and unplugging, and the recessed LED indicator on the mirrored top really gives an extra nice touch.

One point to note, there is a power on button next to the AC input. I missed this and not reading the instructions wondered why it wasn’t connecting to my PC. Make sure once plugged in, you press this button for a couple of seconds to activate the hub.

In Summary: If you want a well built hub with enough ports for most needs then you cannot go wrong with this. It will sit nicely on the desk and the rubber feet help grip it to reduce any movement. Except for the point I made about the placement of the ports this is a must have and I can now easily connect multiple devices without having to chop and change what is plugged in. The ports are well spread out with a decent enough gap between them to allow for slightly wider USB devices to be plugged in without affecting others (which is a common problem on Laptops especially).

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I can finally have my Mouse, Keyboard, HTC One 32GB UK SIM Free Smartphone – Silver, Blackberry, Fitbit One Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker sync dongle and USB Flash all connected at the same time! Thank you Anker!!!!!

Review: HTC One (M7)

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“Inspirational, conceptual, beautiful. The #HTCOne is THE phone of 2013”

HTC really have done a superb job with this phone, I have been running the silver variant for 2 months now and have to say this is one of the finest phones I have used to date. Not only in design, but the Sense UI has been trimmed to give a more fluid feel and less power hungry which shows in the battery usage.

So let’s start with the design; Overall from the front it looks like a sandwich of clear black in between the two silver speaker grills. And while the actual digital screen isn’t edge to edge I quite like having that 5mm black edge framing the visible screen. The top speaker grill also houses the 2.1MP front facing camera and the ambient light sensor, proximity sensor and within the left side of the actual speaker grill is where you’ll find the LED (although you won’t know this until you get a notification or put it on charge). Round the side you’ll find the volume rocker which is an almost flush ridged flat metal bar which works to keep the sleekness of the phone whilst still having that tactile feel so you can find it without looking. On the bottom is the USB port and pinhole for the mic while the top just has the headphones jack and power button. Again, the power button is made flush to the phone, so it can be slightly tricky to find/press, and I can imagine might be tricky if you have larger fingers. The other thing with the power button is it’s clear black, why is this? Well it’s also an IR blaster, this is used to transmit Infra-Red signals to a TV, Sky Box, Hi-Fi etc as the phone can also act as your remote control. On the back is where you’ll find the much talked about Ultra-Pixel camera and accompanying flash, as well as another pinhole for the rear facing mic for use when capturing video’s (in full 1080p HD).

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The phone in it’s entirety is surprisingly slim, and another surprise is the weight. 143g, which is just the right weight in my opinion. Not too heavy, but not light enough that you don’t know you have it. It’s a sleek design and the back is set on a slight convex so that it sits nicely in the palm and just feels natural to hold. The only downside to this is when you are lying the phone on a flat surface such as a table and typing a text or using the phone as it makes a slight wobble. The finish overall is of a high quality which would be expected of a flagship device from HTC, as with all HTC devices I’ve used I’ve found their build quality to be unsurpassable.

So on to the bread and butter, usage and UI; The first thing you’ll notice once you’ve booted the phone up and gone through the standard setup process is the responsiveness of the phone. Sometimes I’m wondering if I even pressed the screen at times as I’ve gone to press an icon or shortcut and it’s opened before I’ve felt anything. It’s just so quick to respond to every gesture and press which is a far cry from anything I’ve used before… even AOSP/AOKP. You’ll also start to grasp how much the Sense UI has been trimmed down. This time you have a maximum of 5 panes to add widgets/shortcuts to and these are aligned in a row with Blinkfeed (HTC’s update to Friend Stream) taking the first pane, so really just 4 left to play about with. This time HTC have decided not to add loads of random widgets that you may or may not want to various panels, you just get Blinkfeed and the standard clock…. It’s now up to you to customise which in my opinion is better as I hated having to remove loads of widgets I didn’t want or use.

This time the app drawer is made to feel like an access panel rather than an additional window to be opened and closed. So rather than the button to open, and back button taking you out and back to the home screen. You just use the menu to open, and then menu again to reduce. This can be a little confusing to start with, but you get used to not being able to use the back button to close it and it does start to feel like a better way of operating.

All in all, Sense has had quite a revamp. So if you’ve used previous iterations of this skin it will certainly feel different, but in a good way! It’s cleaner, more polished and HTC have taken out a lot of the unneeded widgets, stock apps etc that just added to the drain on processor and battery. To me it’s starting to get to be more like pure android with some additional enhancements, whereas before it was a complete overlay which didn’t allow you to truly appreciate the Android OS for what it is.

So what else is new? Well, HTC have added an IR Blaster into the power button. So by using the TV app pre-installed on the phone you can run a setup process to determine your, country, channels and hardware setup. Once done you can easily open the TV app, see recommended programs or all programs, press the image of the program you want to watch and it will select the channel for you. No more fighting over the remote! With the Sense TV app you can add remotes by room, so for example you could have a setup for your living room, and another for the bedroom etc. The only thing missing is I would have liked another app to be on the phone to allow you to just use the remote feature by itself. For example I have a wireless speaker which I take on holiday or outside if we’re in the garden etc and I would like to have an app which could download or learn the remote codes for this without having to worry about the TV channels etc.

Have I mentioned the dual facing front speakers? This really is an impressive move. Stereo sound with a dedicated amplifier and Beats by Dre… all in a phone! It really does make a difference, and trust me you’ll know when you get a message or your alarm goes off for the first time in the morning, you may want to turn the volumes down a little. And I never thought I’d hear myself saying that about a phone speaker. Playing music through it is just a joy, no tinny poor quality sound. And if you put the volume on max, the bass doesn’t distort or feel un-natural. You really do need to hear it to believe it!

Blinkfeed – In a slightly controversial move HTC have made Blinkfeed a static non-removable home screen panel taking up the first of the 5 available to you. So what is it? Blinkfeed is like a mesh of tweets, Facebook status updates/wall posts, information such as news, reviews etc from various online sources as well as upcoming calendar appointments or TV shows (if you have the TV app configured). The aim is to provide a hub for the activity which it feels would be of interest to you all on one screen. I’m not a huge fan of seeing everything my Facebook friends are doing, so I’ve set mine to just show my calendar entries and TV recommendations. But I can see this would be good for people who do like to keep on top of it all.

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Why no megapixels? If you haven’t already understood ultrapixels then there are some great guides as to the benefits of ultrapixels over megapixels on the HTC blog. But in essence, megapixels are great if supersizing your pictures to put on a billboard or a very large screen. But for daily usage ultrapixels offer a better clarity and image processing. This leads to far clearer images and pictures I’ve taken on my phone are in such high quality I’ve actually converted from using my Canon compact to just using the phone now as the images are actually better. The colours and clarity offered is amazing to see, especially on the HD screen you get with the One. Just another feature I urge anyone to see for themselves as you won’t get the full experience until you actually try it. One great feature, and one I use a lot is the movie highlight feature which using some clever algorithms creates a short film of an event in your gallery and combines stills & moving images to create a kind of trailer for your event. Everyone I have shown this to is massively impressed, and it’s yet another feature I’d suggest looking at for yourself to really see how good this is.

Overall there are many other features and technical detail I haven’t gone into, but I’ve tried to cover off the parts which I think most people will relate to or use regularly. I can’t emphasise enough how good this phone really is. If you are due an upgrade a would urge that you seriously consider the HTC One as your next phone as it is a fantastic all-round device which offers something for everyone.